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April 2, 2013 / Rabbi Laura

Chametz…its always in our lives

I really struggled with my Passover preparations this year. Now that it’s over, I can say that.  Not only was I busy, busy, busy and had trouble finding the time to do the rigorous cleaning I like to do, but I also had a deeper spiritual challenge with it.

photo copy 2Traditionally, Jews are supposed to clean their whole house of bread crumbs and any signs of chametz (leavening) prior to Passover. Nothing is to be left in the house.

Each year as Passover approaches, I make the time to clean out the refrigerator, the freezer and the pantry.  I try also to do a really thorough cleaning of the cupboards in the kitchen. We don’t have separate dishes or cookware for Passover, but I make a concerted effort to make our kitchen feel like its Passover.  I take any unopened or salvageable chametz out to the garage freezer and store the dry goods in boxes for the week.  And I get my car washed – inside and out.

Some in my family think that it is silly to move all the food around.  Why go through the hassle of shlepping it out and then back in a week later? Well, in our previous homes I really needed to empty the pantry of chametz in order to make room for the boxes of matzo and Passover foods.

Since moving to Fresno, though, we have been blessed with a VERY LARGE pantry.  It is the size of a walk-in closet.  There is plenty of space for lots of food, my wine collection, storage etc.  It just doesn’t make sense to move so much food out of this generous space, when I could simply put it to one side.  So that’s what I did last week.

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At first I really struggled with this plan. I felt a bit guilty.  Was I becoming lazy? Was I letting go of that important aspect of Passover, cleaning out the chametz?

At the seder we talk about the metaphorical meaning of chametz.  Chametz – the stuff that puffs us up and fills us with self-importance. Chametz – the stuff that blocks our ability to move forward as our true selves. Chametz – the stuff that holds us back or weighs us down.

As I organized the pantry, moving chametz to one side and making dedicated space for the Passover-friendly foods, I realized, the chametz isn’t really going anywhere.  Chametz it always there – literally and metaphorically. Its how we deal with its presence in our lives that counts.

Each time I went into the pantry this past week, I would see it, acknowledge its presence, and then move on to what I was really in search of. By keeping the literal chametz in my pantry, and blocking it off, I created for myself a spiritual exercise in learning how to push the metaphorical chametz aside as well.

This morning I took all the tape down. Chametz, free for the taking.  Pretzels and crackers, oatmeal and Girl Scout cookies.  All those yummy baked goods are back.  Does that mean we have to let the metaphorical chametz back too?  It might be there, but we don’t have to take it back in.

This Passover I learned that chametz will always been in my life.  Its inevitable.  But now I know, I don’t have to always let it control me.  I can acknowledge its presence and push it aside, moving onto what I am really searching for.



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